Schenectady County

DA: Years of intimidation

The threats, notes and damage were occurring with greater frequency. The wife tried to calm herself

The threats, notes and damage were occurring with greater frequency. The wife tried to calm herself through psychotherapy sessions. The husband kept a shotgun under the bed.

Any noise at night brought visions of Steven Raucci breaking into the house to harm them or plant explosives.

“I spent two tours in Vietnam and I’m more scared now than I was in Vietnam,” the man told state police investigators this year. “I don’t want to give the satisfaction to Steve knowing this, but this is what he has done to our lives. He is nothing but a terrorist who bullies those in order to get his way.”

The account — witness’s name removed — was included this week as part of an effort by prosecutors to keep alleged arsonist Steven Raucci behind bars pending trial on a host of charges, including arson and terrorism.

Since the Feb. 20 arrest of the city schools director of facilities, authorities say they have been inundated with similar stories of fear and intimidation by Raucci during his tenure at the district.

Many agreed to speak, but feared Raucci would find out and retaliate and hurt someone this time, according to prosecutors. The accounts have included active retaliation, threats, intimidation and even sexual harassment. In one instance, Raucci allegedly wrote a sexually harassing and demeaning memo on school letterhead.

The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office submitted a voluminous file of new information this week in its effort to keep Raucci locked up without bail pending trial.

Raucci’s attorney has denied all the accusations on behalf of his client, calling the release of information unfair. He said they don’t even know how to attack the information as names of the accusers have been redacted.

History of incidents

The 60-year-old Raucci, suspended without pay, is suspected in more than a dozen incidents that prosecutors believe can be prosecuted, and others that may simply be too old to prosecute. He would damage cars of people who simply disagreed with him, slashing tires, damaging paint or blowing windshields out, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney wrote. One couple reported their car being vandalized five times and said that Raucci had publicly denounced the husband.

Raucci allegedly threatened to kill at least five people. One man told police he was so afraid, he attempted suicide.

No one was ever injured, but the possibility was there, officials said. The top-level arson count alleges the detonation of an explosive device at the door of an occupied Rotterdam home in 2001.

The Rotterdam incident is the earliest one charged. Two others have been alleged dating to 2006 in Clifton Park and 2007 in Schodack.

The 2006 and 2007 are allegedly linked, not only through the method — a cigarette fuse — but also by other evidence.

Forensic evidence directly links Raucci to the Schodack attempt, Carney wrote. Prosecutors also believe the Schodack device can be linked to the Clifton Park one.

Raucci, who lives in Niskayuna, has no criminal history, something that he has bragged about to friends, Carney wrote in paperwork opposing bail, “not because of his non-involvement in crime, but by reason of the many acts … which he has gotten away with over the years.”

Allegations against Raucci of violence against people, more particularly property, date back 43 years. That effort “by his own admissions, has continued unabated since then,” Carney wrote.

His tenure as an employee with the Schenectady City School District is 36 years. He eventually rose to the position of director of facilities, making a salary of more than $79,000 that ballooned to more than $129,000 with overtime.

One of the main questions underlying the case has been, with all the allegations now surfacing against him, how could it have gone on so long?

Carney suggested Tuesday Raucci was meticulous.

“I think he was both careful not to get caught doing anything and he largely succeeded in intimidating people from coming forward,” Carney said.

Sometimes the link between him and his alleged targets was tangential at best, Carney said.

There are allegations, from a former employee with a lawsuit against the district, that Raucci had close ties to the district’s head of human resources.

District officials have said little. Superintendent Eric Ely, who joined the district in mid-2004 and took the top job a year later, has said rumors swirled about Raucci and his activities with the union. But he could only remember one specific allegation that came in 2004. Ely recommended the employee contact police.

He also said he has not had a lot of formal complaints against Raucci, but they would have been turned over to the district’s human resources department for an investigation.

Federal lawsuit

In his federal lawsuit against the district and Raucci, former district employee Ronald Kriss says in an affidavit that the director of human resources, Michael Stricos, would purchase gifts for Raucci, one being a photo of Marlon Brando from “The Godfather,” which Raucci displayed prominently.

Kriss included the anecdote in his affidavit before arguing that his own sexual harassment claim never went anywhere, despite a workers’ compensation ruling in his favor.

Stricos declined to comment Tuesday through a district spokeswoman, citing the ongoing investigation.

At the heart of Kriss’ federal suit are allegations of sexual harassment. Raucci allegedly touched employees inappropriately in an effort at intimidation.

Kriss argued he suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and an anxiety disorder. Raucci, he alleged, made demeaning comments toward him as a result.

The suit was filed in February 2008, nearly two years after Kriss’ work stopped at the district.

For at least the last five years, Raucci has served as not only the director of facilities, overseeing more than 100 district employees, but also as president of those employees’ union.

The situation created problems, especially when the concerns were about the boss, Raucci himself, according to one employee, who asked that her name not be used.

“You’ve got to complain to him about him?” she asked. “How can you be for me and against me at the same time?”

She also alleged Raucci had her put in for overtime after making political calls. She said she voluntarily made the calls off-hours, and Raucci offered later for her to put in for overtime. She accepted, fearing offending him.

“Superiors regularly refused to contravene his decisions so employees knew they had no recourse,” Carney wrote.

A representative of the state CSEA declined to comment Tuesday. The CSEA Local 847 has since been placed under administratorship by the state organization.

Carney alleged that Raucci required employees to engage in political meetings and union meetings during work hours. Other employees were required to perform work on his personal residence.

Other allegations include harassing anonymous e-mails, groping, opening workers’ paychecks in front of other employees and sexually harassing a female employee with an offensive letter outlining her job requirements.

The letter, written on “Schenectady City Schools” letterhead is dated July 7, 2008.

In the letter, Raucci informs the job candidate that she has won a “messenger” position. Included in the memo are 11 “additional conditions of the appointment,” among them, “Take time every day to keep you appearance pleasing for your supervisor.”

Asked Tuesday whether anyone other than the woman had received the memo, Carney said he did not know.

Categories: Schenectady County

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